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Career Goals, what to say to your manager to jump start your career

career goals

Managers are not mind readers. We need to articulate our career goals

Articulate your career goals to land a job promotion

Everyone has career goals and wants to take his or her career to the next level. For some the next level may be a promotion and for others, the career goal may be a position in another department or discipline. “Career goals” means different things for different people, but regardless of our career goals, the way we go about achieving our “next level” is the same. Today’s blog post paves the way.

Hard truth:

In most manager’s minds, the majority of employees are hoping and praying for a promotion vs. doing anything about it.

Why communication is important

This week we discuss why it is so important to articulate our career goals. Next week, we discuss the specific steps you can take to pro-actively move your career in a forward direction regardless of your direction (or lack of).

One of the questions that all senior executives ask of candidates and employee is “What do you want to do with your career?” This is a variation of “What is your five-year plan?” This is a common networking question and a guaranteed interview question so we should always have a prepared answer. A candidate that is not able to answer this question makes it tough on the hiring manager to extend an offer because managers don’t want to hire anyone that:

  • Doesn’t have any ambition
  • Hasn’t thought about what they want to do with their life.

Just don’t assume your manager knows you want to be a manager

An employee who isn’t able to answer this question is very difficult to promote because the manager doesn’t know what position to promote the employee into. The LAST thing your manager wants to do is assume an incorrect path with your career goals. (You would be surprised how many employees do not want to be a manager, so don’t assume this is the norm).  

Requisite dating life example

When we go on a first date with Ms. Right and ask her: “What do you want to do this evening?” the last thing we want to hear is “I don’t know, what every you want to do is cool.”  As flexible as Ms. Right sounds, this response makes it very difficult to set up an evening for success. Now, if Ms. Right responds with:

  • “I think it would be great if the two of us could check out the new restaurant X”
  • “I’d love to see the new Y movie with you”
  • “I want to take a drive and see the tulip festival. The drive will give us time to get to know each other”

The date becomes much easier to set up for success. Even if you do not like food X or movie Y, for Ms. Right, we suck it up. For Ms. Right, we would probably go see Fried Green Tomatoes, 50 Shades of Grey, and yes walk through muddy fields of tulips. The point is that relationships take work from both side. Mr. Right (your manager) is not a mind reader and “I don’t know, What ever you want to do” is very difficult to work with.

Whose career is this?

Could Mr. Right (your manager) make a suggestion and plan the evening? Absolutely, but at the end of the day, we are individually responsible for our dates and our careers. We need to be pro active and set ourselves up for success. The date and your career is about your happiness and we need to take some initiative.

Five Year plan

Back to the executive asking about our five-year plan. In this competitive market, just having a career goal isn’t enough. If we really want the executive to take us seriously, we need to provide a few more details. 1.) Why this goal means something to us and 2.) What we have been doing to attain this goal. Anyone can have a career goal but few actually make moves. Managers notice two things, initiative and complacency.  

If I survey 20 employees with the question: “What are your career goals?”

  • 15 will say “I am still trying to figure that out” or worse, “I don’t know”.
  • 4 will say, “I want to be a manager” (very generic and without context this answer is meaningless)
  • 1 will have a specific goal, it is X

What we don’t say

The response “I am still trying to figure it out” is the equivalent of Ms. Right’s response, “I don’t know”. This lack of direction makes it very hard to provide guidance or help towards the next level.

“I want to be a manager” is as generic response as they come and the number 1 answer I hear when it comes to carer goals.  This can be a legitimate answer, but because everyone wants to be a manager and most are doing nothing to about it, your response loses meaning and puts us into the same category as all of the other chaff in the department.

Provide the Why and the What

This can be a great answer if we provide the”WHY” we want to be a manager and “WHAT” we have done to move us closer to the goal. Without this context, this answer sounds like everyone else in the department and we need to differentiate ourselves. 

If I am lucky, our Go-Getter will explain what they want to do, what steps they need to take to hit the goal, AND what steps they have already taken towards the path of enlightenment.

The first step in setting career goals

The first step when it comes to career goals is to figure out WHAT we want to do. Without that answer, it becomes very difficult to make introductions to the specific people who can help and very difficult to give an employee related projects which can prove we are ready for the “next level”.

Let’s say you are a bank teller and you want to be a manager of the bank tellers at the local branch or the Director of bank tellers for the local area.

The wrong answer

When I ask, “Why do you want to be a manager of X department?” what I usually hear is: “I have been in the department the longest, I know about all of our work flows and have great relationships with our customers”.

We have two things going against ourselves at this point. We had to prodded for the reasons we want to be a manager AND none of the above are good enough reasons for promotion. Everyone in the department can say they understand the process and have great relationships with the customer.

Once we figure out our destination, we need to go an extra step

In addition to explaining what we want to do, we need to explain WHY we want to get to that next level and HOW we are planning on getting there.

A wet dream of an answer and what I hear from 1 out of 100:

I want to be a manager in customer service for two reasons. The first reasons is that I am really passionate about our customers being treated right. My experience in the trenches has shown me how managers can effect results at scale vs. what I am doing at a one-on-one level here at Acme Publishing. I have talked with a couple of Directors in similar positions and admire what they do. I am currently in the customer service department and am trying to show leadership ways I am contributing to the department to improve efficiency:

Quantifiable accomplishments

  • Posting up great call center stats
  • Putting together specific workflows for the entire department to improve efficiency
  • Created a FAQ which answer the top 10 questions that come in so new employees can have a guideline for the most common questions.
  • Mentoring new hires

Do you have any advice for me? Am I missing anything? Could I set myself up more efficiently?

Now we are cooking with gas. I can work with this at all kinds of levels:

  • The above answer gives me confidence that the manager title is what our Go-Getter is looking for.
  • This is not a flight of fancy or the career goal of the month.

Initiative

I know that this hopeful candidate is taking the initiative. They have me engaged and I want to help someone who helps himself or herself vs. someone who wants me to do the work for them. 

This hopeful has proven they are walking the walk and not just talking the talk. There are two things all managers here from their employees: “I want to be a manager” and “I can do that job”. Trust me, this is not enough.

When you don’t know your career goals

We continue the discussion and explain the specific steps you can take to pro-actively move your career in a forward direction. Even if we don’t know what we want to do, there are specific steps we will discuss that can set you up for success. 

See you at the after party,

HRNasty
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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